This might be an adventure, and I’ve never had one before – outside of books, at least.

This is just like every other Martin Scorsese film: it stars a couple of kids and has almost all British actors playing French people. Okay, maybe it is different from the gritty crime movies that deal with life and death, but Hugo’s young protagonists—Asa Butterfield’s Hugo Cabret and Chloë Grace Moretz’s Isabelle—both are orphans, children raised by old, mean people.

Hugo first appears as a little boy in internal workings of one of Paris’s train stations. He is alone, but keeps the clocks running. His father, Jude Law, is dead. Ray Winstone should be raising him, but he is a drunk and, as Isabelle would say, a reprobate. Hugo faces two antagonists: the station officer–Sacha Baron Cohen–and a bitter old toymaker–Ben Kingsley. Kingsley’s Georges Méliès is Isabelle’s godfather and he is married to Jeanne—Helen McCrory, whom I thought was a better preserved Sigourney Weaver. The depth of the cast includes Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

I want to say that the visuals were not the only thing in 3-D, the character were as well. Yet, that sound so contrived and inappropriate for a film that has so little contrived about it. Every character has a story. Howard Shore did a phenomenal job providing the music for each locale and each role, which describes the characters better than individual themes. For instance, there was certain music that surrounded the automaton, featured in all of the posters. Yet he played more of a role, of a function, than as a character. The same is true for the characters, except that they are fully developed and function as cogs in a wheel because of the film’s message, rather than because of poor writing or directing.

Hugo showed a world of magic through film. It also acknowledged the glory of the written word, which is appropriate since this is an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Film has always struggled with acceptance as an art form, in a way that books have not. So for a film to show the struggle of early cinema and failure, yet to showcase the power of books shows the dexterity of the story. When Martin Scorsese was a child directors often made artistic children’s movies aimed at adult audiences, but now we just have “there’s something for everyone in this” or Pan’s Labyrinth—an amazing children’s movie that no-one under 15 should watch. This nostalgic film harkens back to a time that probably never existed, but does so without the saccharine sweetness of glossing over our dark past. Just a great, great film, regardless of age of its audience.


Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol



That’s it. Next time, I get to seduce the rich guy.

Brad Bird’s first human being motion picture lacks the consistency of The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Those pictures had state of the art animation and the masters at Pixar assisting Mr. Bird. This time he had J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise. While Tom Cruise brings it as an actor, I do not know what he brought to the picture as a producer. Maybe the uncredited guest stars only signed on because of him. If they agreed to it because of the lavish paychecks, that might explain why the secondary characters were so cheesy.

The major supporting group, both as the cast and as the one remaining IMF team has the glorious Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner, but Paula Patton plays the female lead and is only so-so. I suppose in the world of stereotypical Hollywood teams she filled both the person of color and smoking hot babe spot too. It is that kind of thinking that results in Bosnians with bad Russian accents and wide eyed dopeyness like Miraj Grbic cluttering up this film.

The basic stakes of the film were so high and the odds so long, that it had to play it very serious, like a Bourne film, or it had to accept that it was a satire like Get Smart. By trying to jump between the two, what could have been an even more exciting, or funnier film turned into a pleasurable, if inconsistent 2 hours and 13 minutes.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows



I agree it’s not my best disguise.

While this sequel to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes fails to deliver to the same extent that the original did, it does not deserve the criticism it has received. While Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes seems to have added some Kirk Lazerus into himself. Jude Law’s Watson steals the show this time. And Stephen Fry shows up as Mycroft Holmes and shows off his acting chops—among other things… Noomi Rapace seems like a solid actress, which I would not know anything about, since I am waiting for the American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

Yet in the face of tens of millions of dollars of special effects and lots of Snatch style fight scenes the end fight scene at Reichenbach Falls would have been so much better if the location had seemed less high up. Ritchie must have known that this Holmes faces critical attacks for fighting more than any Holmes since the books’ boxing champion references. Thus Downey Jr quotes the novels verbatim a few times. If only Ritchie did not use those quotations to offset the decrease in deep story and character development.

The Best Directors: A Series—Jay Chandrasekhar

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Littering and…littering and…littering and…Supertroopers is one of the greatest comedies of all-time. Slightly less well received were his Club Dread, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Beerfest. What they all have in common is that they had the rest of the Broken Lizard crew. And that they all made me laugh and laugh. They each took a genre and put together a nice satire. That is what makes Jay Chandrasekhar a great director.

It took dexterity to tell a traditional police tale with such a colorful band of comedians in Supertroopers. Club Dread tackled the classic genre of teen destination horror and used the same gang in vastly different roles. The Dukes of Hazzard showcased a duo I never thought I wanted to see—at least not without Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the film—Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott. I never watched the tv show, but I enjoyed how it tackled the Confederate flag on top of the car. Keeping it real, without offending modern sensibilities. Beerfest also managed to walk that fine line. Showcasing crude, beer related humor with the class and grace of having the director waking up nude, in a field next to a dead deer. While Chandrasekhar mostly works in tv now—Arrested Development, Chuck, Community to name the highlights—I hope that he returns to film so that he can continue as the finest comedy director of my adulthood.

The Best Directors: A Series—Guy Ritchie

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When I think of Guy Ritchie the music from the opening credits pop into my head. I used to divide Guy Ritchie fans into two camps: those who saw Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels first and those who saw Snatch first. But all that has changed now. There are people out there for whom their first experience with Guy Ritchie’s brilliant dialogue and amazing editing has come through Sherlock Holmes. I acknowledge that some of his movies have not been well reviewed—Revolver & RocknRolla, and even the new sequel to Sherlock Holmes. Still, notwithstanding the time when he was married to Madonna, he has always performed amazingly.

The first way that he elicits greatness is through the dialogue of his actors. Think about the great accents, the great deliveries from not contemporaneously respected actors. Actors like Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Jude Law, etc… Or hiring Americans to play Brits, like Brad Pitt as a piker and Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes.

In that respect, Guy Ritchie is not unique. However, his editing with his eclectic musical selections opened my eyes to a new style of films. Until Snatch came out, I thought that Apocalypse Now was the best movie ever made. It still might be, but I could watch Snatch over and over again in a way that I could not with Apocalypse Now or The Godfather: Part II. Even with great dialogue Ritchie cuts films together to convey information through a variety of ways. Those skills are why he is a great director.

Kiss of the Dragon

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In the second it takes you to kill her, I will have all the time I need to kill you…

This is not a movie for everyone, but it is certainly for me. Initially I went to see this for one reason—Jet Li. I watched this again because it has Cyril Raffaelli, one of the stars of District B13 and its Ultimatum. I was surprised at how tall he seemed in this movie, but that’s because he played one of the “twins.” Didier Azoulay plays the other one.  Their fight scene made the movie, including its Bruce Lee/The Matrix style hand beckoning.  I only wish it hadn’t been so deadly.

This movie has other notables that make me really enjoy it, even if it’s not high art. Luc Besson wrote the screenplay based off of Jet Li’s idea. That’s bound to be awesome, although it might run aground in the realm of realistic violence and English dialogue. I questioned the realism of carrying around submachine guns, much less employing them within and without the confines of a famous Paris hotel. Bridget Fonda does what she can with one of three female roles in the movie—the other two are crazy assassin prostitute and old french whore who gets her nose broken. Tchéky Karyo makes every line sound great and Mystikal makes every fight scene pop. This movie captures all of Jet Li’s appeal in 2001: domestic in China—wow does Jet Li beat up a lot of French police,  African-Americans—Mystikal’s rap soundtrack + Jet Li, foreign audiences—takes place in Paris, but has American style action, and young white kung fu fans—like me! For the record, I saw this in theaters and the CGI pool ball scene looked great in 2001.


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You’ll forgive me if I don’t stay around to watch. I just can’t cope with the freaky stuff.

David Cronenberg Cronenbergs the crap out of this movie. James Woods stars as the head of a crappy little tv station in the pre-cable days. He is on the look out for dreck to sell to his moderately perverted viewers. His proto-hacker techie finds a pirate transmission of “Videodrome.” Simply put, ” Videodrome” shows torture and murder. Woods thinks it might be the future of tv, but watching it causes hallucinations.

Like a David Lynch film, you cannot trust your eyes. Competing ideologies put Woods into the role of both arbiter and tool. Such a confusing film demands repeat viewings, which explains Videodrome’s cult status.

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